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Manitoba Museum

Madder (Rubiaceae)

Northern Bedstraw

Galium boreale L.

This prairie perennial has creeping rhizomes that often form dense patches. It is commonly named for its historical use as a mattress and pillow stuffing. Young plants and leaves are edible and have medicinal uses, while roots can be used for making a red dye. Flowers are mainly pollinated by flies and beetles, but are capable of self-pollination. They also attract bees, ants, butterflies, and moths.

Flower Colour:

  • White

Flowering Season:

  • Spring
  • Summer

Flowering Months:

  • August
  • July
  • June
  • May

Canadian Rarity Status:

Not rare. Listed as “may be at risk” in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

Physical Appearance:

Numerous, erect, branching stems grow 20-80 cm tall, and are 4-sided with tufts of hair below the nodes. Narrow, lance-shaped stem leaves have three distinct parallel veins and smooth edges, occurring in whorls of four. Basal leaves die back early. Numerous, tiny white, saucer-shaped flowers occur in a branching terminal cluster. Male and female flowers occur on separate plants, each one having four pointy-tipped petals. Fruits are hairy nutlets.

Similar Species:

Pale Comandra, Small Bedstraw (Galium trifidum L.), Sweet-scented Bedstraw (Galium triflorum Michx.)

Gardening Notes:

Seeds and/or plants are often available from greenhouses and seed supply companies specializing in native plants. Plants are a good addition to pond edge/wetland, woodland, or prairie gardens. They can be propagated by seed, rhizome cuttings, or division of mature plants.

Canadian Distribution:

  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Manitoba
  • New Brunswick
  • Northwest Territories
  • Nova Scotia
  • Ontario
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan
  • Yukon

Prairie Types:

  • Fescue Prairie
  • Mixed Grass Prairie
  • Tall Grass Prairie


  • Lake Shores
  • Open Woodlands
  • Prairies
  • Rocky Slopes
  • Salt Water Shores

Moisture Conditions:

  • Moderate
  • Moist

Light Preference:

  • Full Sun
  • Part Shade

Soil Preference:

  • Clay
  • Loam
  • Organic
  • Sand
Northern Bedstraw